Recruiting Members and Volunteers Amid a Changing Landscape

In recent months I have been traveling to ASQ sections and divisions to meet with our members. Our members are very passionate about ASQ, and they don’t hesitate to bring up challenges that we must address as an organization. One of those challenges is our membership model. Simply put, members tell me that we must make it easier for quality professionals to be a part of ASQ. For some, the traditional section and/or division membership works great, but for others, it does not.

While we will certainly analyze this issue, I think we’re not the only association in this boat.  Most associations must generate new and creative ways to attract and retain members. This comes as no surprise. If you’re really interested, you could read this report from the Center for Association Leadership on changing demographic trends and how they affect associations.

From the report:

“The dependency on membership and participation for traditional third-sector organizations will likely continue, but the sustaining sources for such organizations — namely the ‘traditional’ members — will certainly evolve and could even disappear, forcing organizations to look for new sources of members, donors, volunteers, and revenue. Organizations may have to change their missions to meet the needs and demands of a whole new membership and service sector. The transformation is a result of dramatic demographic change in the U.S. population, a force that is altering the profile of U.S. membership associations like never before. The pool of ‘traditional’ members (i.e., members derived from historic rather than current demographic data) is diminishing quickly as demographics continue to shift.”

This isn’t just an American phenomenon. It appears that professional associations worldwide are also affected by demographic trends. Even without such trends, we intuitively know that there are many ways for people to get professional information these days—certainly on the internet and on social media, for a start.

At ASQ headquarters we are sometimes asked for advice on best practices on attracting members to their section or division. I am by no means an expert on this topic, but I do want to share some tips developed by ASQ’s Community Development team, which works closely with our members and volunteer leaders.

  • Asking people to attend an association event is an authentic, effective, and simple way to engage potential members.  The Community Development team tells me that people of all ages are three times as likely to help if asked directly. In this age of electronic communication, do we ask people to help, face to face, as frequently as we could?
  • In addition, current association members can refer members and colleagues. They can invite them to association meetings and events, and they can follow up with members who’ve lapsed. A simple call or email can do the trick.
  • To encourage committed members to step up and become association leaders—such as volunteers or chapter officers– explain what’s in it for them. Think leadership experience, practice and application of skills, and personal achievement. You should be ready to provide enough information about specific requirements and expectations. Finally, of course, asking them is the most effective technique of all.

Now let’s hear from you. If you’re part of a professional association, how do you encourage people to join or volunteer? How do local trends impact your association?

*Not to trumpet ASQ, but in November we will resume our annual Adding New Voices campaign, in which ASQ members can give a free, six-month membership to a colleague or friend. Members, watch your email for details.

August Roundup: What's The Future of Quality?

Last month, ASQ’s Influential Voices bloggers wrestled with a big question: What road will quality take in the future? In his August blog post, ASQ CEO, Bill Troy laid out two scenarios—one evolutionary and one revolutionary.  Some bloggers took one view or the other, while others explored how the counterpoints merge or complement each other. Take a look.

Evolutionary: Anshuman Tiwari writes that quality is evolutionary by nature, not revolutionary, and that’s fine. Edwin Garro notes that “we quality professionals surely are the basic units of an autopoietic system“–that is, one that can reproduce and maintain itself as necessary. Jennifer Stepniowski writes that a cautious revolutionary approach that doesn’t forget its roots generally thrives. And John Priebe adds that an evolutionary approach is superior to a revolutionary one.

Revolutionary: Aimee Sigler proposes that sustainability is the truly revolutionary idea in quality. Rajan Thiyagarajan makes the case that the future of quality will be revolutionary–as does Nicole Radziwill.  “We’re going to need new models for business, new models for education, and new models for living if we are to satisfy the stated and implied needs of an increasingly interconnected Internet of people and things,” she writes. And Don Brecken sees the future of quality as a battle.

Both/And: Manu Vora predicts that the future of quality will be 80% evolutionary and 20% revolutionary. Jimena Calfa argues that the future of quality will be both revolutionary and evolutionary. Bob Mitchell also says the future of quality will be both–resulting in “resulting in uneven incremental, breakthrough and disruptive levels of performance improvement.”

Neither? Scott Rutherford asks if conditions exist for a quality revolution, finding that they do not, as quality is rarely part of educational curriculum.

John Hunter writes that the key to predicting the future of quality lies in the decisions made in the executive suite. Lotto Lai looks at the future of quality through the lens of the film “The Matrix.”

Guy Wallace writes about the role of marketing principles in the future of ASQ.

Dan Zrymiak believes that quality is moving from control and performance excellence to emphasizing innovation.

Michael Noble notes that the consumer has a key role in defining the future of quality: “But let me argue that ultimately change will not be driven just from within the professional community because the real driver of change comes from public demand on one issue or another.”

The Future of Quality: Evolutionary or Revolutionary?

In 1835, Alexis De Tocqueville, a French political writer, wrote his classic work, Democracy in America.  His observations about America were a fascinating window into the times and issues of the day.  Part of the power of his observations was his detached perspective.  He could stay above the intense political currents, prejudices, and passions of the times and report on what he saw and heard.  His writings still resonate today and tell us about the American character and culture.

I am a little bit like Mr. De Tocqueville, abroad in a foreign land, albeit not as articulate, learned, or astute.  In this case, the land is the quality community. As a newcomer to the quality field, I don’t have an insider’s grasp of the culture, language, or heritage, but I have a great admiration for your passion for quality.

While being a visitor can be frustrating and confusing, I hope you will see it also gives me the advantage of a certain amount of objectivity.  The quality community has many different constituencies, each with its own perspective.  There is broad agreement on some things and sharp disagreements about others.

One of the things I bring to this post is my respect for what you know and what you do.  I came from a military background where you quickly learn that standards and certifications are serious business.  Being in a field such as yours, where we also value learning, standards and certifications, feels noble and right to me, and I bring the advantage of a certain detachment from one particular quality perspective, which I hope will serve the community and ASQ well.

One of my early observations is that I believe there are two very distinct views about the future of quality we need to at least acknowledge, if not actually reconcile.

Evolutionary change: I would describe one view as the ascribing to evolutionary change.  The quality movement has been immensely important and successful in many fields and will continue to grow and evolve, but will do so in recognizable and well-defined ways.  We will move down traditional paths but reach new destinations and make new inroads into fields that are underserved today. We will keep doing what we do well and find ways to do it even better.

Revolutionary change: I would call the second view as seeing revolutionary change in the future of quality.  Some of the ways we brought value to our businesses, industries, and communities will have to fundamentally change.  We will have to bring value to the C-suite as much as to the production line. We must have tools that will facilitate a meaningful contribution at ever more senior levels to make the impact our customers and colleagues want.  Knowledge, which we value so highly and have worked so hard to gather, organize, and refine, must be shared much more freely in the age of new media.  Even what we describe as quality may be subsumed by different umbrella terms such as “organizational excellence or “risk management.”

I predict a lively debate in the days ahead and I look forward to reporting what I see and hear among you who hold the keys to our future in your hands.

In the meantime, what do you think? How will the future of quality unfold?

Quality Trends in Uncommon Places

[This is a guest post by Julia McIntosh of ASQ’s Communications department.]

Most of the keynote speakers at ASQ’s World Conference on Quality and Improvement weren’t traditional “quality” professionals. Yet all wove the theme of quality into their presentations, which ranged from what motivates us in the workplace to how to be more interesting (useful when courting potential clients and employers).

For May’s monthly theme on View From the Q, we’re breaking with tradition a bit and offering multiple topics for discussion. All are themes that came up at the conference. Yet these subjects are relevant to the quality community far beyond one event. Take a look.

Workplace Motivation and Goals: What motivates you at work? Keynote speaker and author Daniel Pink argued that rewards motivate us to accomplish very simple and rote tasks, but they’re useless in encouraging complex and creative work. Interestingly, ASQ blogger John Hunter (who wasn’t at the conference) just wrote a post for the W. Edwards Deming Institute blog featuring a podcast by Pink and this insight: “Quotes by Dan Pink are backed by decades of research , and support W. Edwards Deming’s views on managing people.”  Here’s a sampling of Daniel Pink’s case against rewards for performance:

  • Short-term motivators have outlived their use for 21st century work. Dr. Deming figured this out years ago.
  • Fact: Money is a motivator—it’s the standard of normal fairness. Pay enough to take issue of money off the table.
  • Besides money, the three key motivators are autonomy, mastery and purpose.
  • The technology for engagement isn’t management, but self-direction over time, tasks, team, and technique.

Do you think Pink and Deming are correct about about motivation in the workpalce?

Charm and Fascination (or “Soft Skills): Both Sally Hogshead and James Melton spoke at the conference about making oneself likeable, fascinating, and charming. You may think of these as “soft skills.”  Do soft skills matter if you’re extraordinary at the technical aspects of your job? Sally and James said yes! Key takeaway from James Melton: “Treat strangers with the same courtesy as you do loved ones. You will go far.” You never know when that stranger turns out to be a client or an employer. Sally Hogshead said that you don’t have to be the best at your job to be successfu.  But you do need to be distinct. How do you make yourself distinct as a quality professional?

The Quality/C-Suite Connection: Author Karen Martin spoke about the disconnect between the quality department and the C-suite. It’s a common problem, and one covered on this blog. See: Can We “Sell” Quality? and Baldrige In the C-Suite.  How can you, the quality professional, help build a bridge to the C-suite? Karen suggests becoming a coach, teacher, and mentor in your organization. Do you agree?

What’s The Future of Quality? Futurist Jamais Cascio laid out his vision of epic global changes in the next decade. How will the quality profession change in tandem? It’s a question of great interest to ASQ. Every three years we conduct a Future of Quality study, anticipating the future of the field and preparing for the changes it will bring. The latest study was done in 2011, and you can read it here (PDF). Speaking of the future, ASQ’s just-released Global State of Quality research  gives a comprehensive look at the quality function in organizations around the world. The research is certainly helping us plan for the future by uncovering current trends. Look for a more in-depth post on The Global State of Quality later in May. Paul Borawski will be back with additional insights on the research.